Poems by Dawn Promislow

Dawn PromislowDawn Promislow was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa and has lived in Toronto since 1987. Her writing has appeared in Maple Tree Literary SupplementNuméro Cinq, Canopic Jar, Random House’s HazlittSLiP (Stellenbosch Literary Project), Canadian Poetries and StoryTime, among others, and has been anthologized in TOKWriting the New Torontobook 5 (Zephyr Press, 2010), and African Roar 2012 (StoryTime Publications, 2012). Her debut short story collection, Jewels and Other Stories (TSAR Publications, 2010), was long-listed for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award 2011, and was named one of the 8 best fiction debuts of 2011 by the Globe and Mail (Canada). She is writing her second book, a novel, while continuing to write and publish short fiction and poems.



Three Poems by Dawn Promislow


Spanish moss, South Florida.
Spanish moss, South Florida.

Spanish moss

we came upon it
in the january of two thousand and fourteen

this mossed forest,
this ancient stand of trees, standing,
thick and impenetrable.

the air thick, thickened,
and a dim hum of ancient,
crepusculed insects in the dim, dimmed light and heavy shade.

a deep shade, a sweating forest,
and sweating slowly, we were,
as we stood.

there were strange birds we saw that startled,
and otters in the waterway
that coursed through the thickly-green,
a trickle sometimes,
a gurgle, sometimes you’d just feel it, beneath you, beneath ferns,
beneath everything.

this is how the forest was, i know,
to those who originally came upon it,
and stood, in a year unknown,
and to those, after, who came from the sea,
in golden, glistening ships,
and stood awhile,
and called it Spanish moss, then.

these mossy tendrils, now,
hang from every branch and tree,
soft and ghostly,
like hair

or like a dress, dressed,
an ancient, bedraggled dress,
bridal maybe,
relic of long-lost,



Glass bowl, manufactured by Westmoreland Glass Company, Pennsylvania, 1940s.
Glass bowl, manufactured by Westmoreland Glass Company, Pennsylvania, 1940s.

this sea

this sea-bowl is the sea, see,
see how it curves and curls and waves,
wavering, wavy,
and blues,
many blues alluring and diminishing,
and advancing and retreating,
in the white light-crystalled light.

how strange that this sea-bowl though,
this watery watered thing,
curves from a landlocked place,
fashioned in nineteen-forty pennsylvania,
the green slopings of pennsylvania,
the curving green-hilled part, inland,
sylvan, it’s true,
but no watered water nearby, at all.

and perhaps you see, see,
the flower sea-forms swaying,
softly swaying, swaying softly,
blue bloomed
on this sea-surface here.

and perhaps you’ve seen
this blue bowl,
in Toronto with me
beside me

no waving watery sea here either

a sill and window, some green beyond, is all.



in the Moroccan restaurant
there are tagines

earthenware dishes with dome-lids
in earthen colours
rust, sienna, burnt brown

and when the dome-lid lifts,
steam wreaths,
and earth-like tones, again

orange, yellow-saffroned, browned
lamb deep-stewed

and you have never eaten Moroccan food before
this gilded night

and the green-earth tea is silver-lidded
silver-flecked cloth covering

and hot the deep-glint tea and sweet,

and the reason you are here is your daughter was in Morocco

and she knows about Moroccan tagines
so you are here in this warm-gold restaurant

with her

and she is deep-brown haired and honeyed
and rich with ochre, ambered tales

and honey-eyed, gold-lidded
softly lashed,
and glints her ruby-mouth

in timbered tones

she is twenty-one
and you have known her for twenty-one years,
so far

and rising from the crimson-threaded
the etchéd glass
the silver-glinting bevelled tray

you leave the restaurant

with her

and walk home
down the far dune
of Avenue Road
turning left at the light
and onto your Toronto street

where on this warm
evening the lights are gold and garnet
like they are in Marrakesh

  4 comments for “Poems by Dawn Promislow

  1. October 12, 2014 at 1:47 am

    Excellent poems, Dawn! I like “Spanish moss”, having seen a lot of that in the South. Also, I liked the reference in “this sea” to my native Pennsylvania!

  2. January 21, 2015 at 7:52 am

    Love the poems especially the second one the rhyme in sea, see and see again is creative. Fantastic.

  3. Verity
    May 15, 2016 at 8:33 pm

    I like them all, but love the third 🙂 I wasn’t expecting the ending…

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